At Imagine 4D, we specialize in immersive 3D display environments. We truly believe in our product. We are also continuously working to answer your questions and want to help guide you in choosing an immersive media that best fits your needs (for an in-depth look at immersive media, check out our blog post here). To help you make the right choice, our team put together an immersive solution comparison list. 

A picture of Station IX, Imagine 4D's immersive solution

Station IX

We offer an immersive solution called Station IX, which uses Reflected Reality™ to create an accurate sense of depth and allows users to view 3D imagery without the need for virtual reality goggles or head-mounted devices (HMDs). Although we believe that Station IX has countless applications and industry uses, we also understand that our product will not suit every client’s needs.

We compared Station IX with 4 other types of immersive media solutions in 5 different categories, and we put all this information in one easily accessible place: this blog post.

This comparative list is meant to guide organizations on their journey in choosing immersive solutions for their business’ needs. We will evaluate the following criteria:

      1. Multi-user capabilities: is the immersive system conducive to collaboration?
      2. Immersive Display Field-of-view
      3. Comparing depth perception and 3D sensation
      4. VR’s physiological limitations: is VR sickness a factor in the immersive environment?
      5. Quick assembly and outdoor usage in immersive solutions 

Before we launch into our immersive solution comparison, it is first necessary to do some defining.

    1. Station IX: an immersive 3D display which harnesses the power of Reflected Reality™ and surrounds users in 3D environments without the need for VR goggles or HMDs.
    2. Cave Automatic Virtual Environment (CAVE): are multi-sided environments (ranging from two to six sides), typically bespoke and cube-shaped, and deploy high-end rear projection technology. 3D imagery is achieved by wearing VR goggles or HMDs.
    3. 360° Degree Projection Domes: typically come in a variety of shapes, sizes, and materials. They often use high-resolution direct projection technology and 3D imagery is achieved by wearing VR goggles and HMDs.
    4. Flat Panel Displays/Powerwall: a large-scale, flat, high-resolution display system. Compared to CAVE systems and 360 projection domes, powerwalls do not surround users in content. They are flat displays, either one large display or a cluster of displays to create a single seamless “super-display.” Powerwalls use rear-projection or direct projection technology. In order to see 3D content, users must wear VR goggles or HMDs.
    5. Head-Mounted Displays (virtual reality): as the name implies, these devices are worn on the head. Some of these devices are tethered to a computer, and others are wireless.
      1. Virtual Reality (VR): A digital environment replaces the user’s physical environment. VR completely immerses individuals in this digital world and this is typically done using head-mounted displays.

Multi-user capabilities: is the immersive solution conducive to collaboration?

Inside our Immersive Solution, Station IX

Is your immersive solution collaborative?

Station IX

Yes, Station IX is built for shared and collaborative endeavors. HMDs and VR goggles are not required to view 3D content within the immersive system, so users can focus on each other, the content, and the tasks they are working on. Similarly, Station IX is a shared experience, as up to 15 users may simultaneously view and work with 3D content within the environment.

CAVEs

Yes, but with limitations. This immersive solution are able to hold groups of people, but the physical equipment required to view 3D content (i.e. HMDs and VR goggles) can hinder users from interacting freely and the experience becomes less collaborative.

360° Degree Projection Domes

Yes, but with limitations. Depending on the size, these domes can often hold well over 100 people, but if users want a fully immersive 3D experience, HMDs and VR goggles are required and thus limit interactions and collaborative efforts.

Flat Panel Displays/Powerwall

Yes, but with limitations. Again, if users want to see 3D content projected on the screens, HMDs and VR goggles are required. These systems are less collaborative because users cannot communicate as easily with team mates nor freely see their body language and facial expressions.

Head-Mounted Displays (VR)

No,  VR HMDs are solitary immersive experiences. Users wear these devices and their reality is completely replaced with a virtual world.

Immersive Display Field-of-view

Station IX

The Station IX Immersive Workstation has a 315° field-of-view and the Immersive Theater and Auditorium have a 280° horizontal field-of-view, which can also be scaled to 360°. See our spec sheets here.

CAVEs

Can have a large field-of-view, but this is dependent upon how many walls are installed in the environment.

360° Degree Projection Domes

As the name suggests, the field-of-view for these domes is 360°.

Flat Panel Displays/Powerwalls

The field-of-view for these devices is smaller than the other products because users are seated in front of large, flat screens, which is similar to a movie theatre experience.

Head-Mounted Displays (VR)

These devices have relatively small fields-of-view ranging from 95°-110°. Some higher-end VR headsets can range from 170°-200°.

Comparing depth perception and 3D sensation

Station IX

Yes. The combination of large, curved mirrors, a curved projection screen, and high-end projectors allows Station IX to create an accurate sense of depth and 3D. This accuracy is not available in systems that utilize direct projection technology (images projected directly on a flat screen), and is specific to Reflected Reality™. For more information about our proprietary image technology and how it creates an accurate sense of depth and 3D imagery without goggles, read our Reflected Reality™ blog post.

How our immersive solution works: reflected reality explained

How Station IX uses Reflected Reality

CAVEs

No. True sense of depth and three dimensionality is not possible using rear projection technology. Direct imagery is flat and tends to feel two dimensional. If users wear HMDs, then proper depth perception and 3D imagery are achieved. By wearing headsets, however, the virtual experience becomes a solitary one.

360° Degree Projection Domes

No. True sense of depth and three dimensionality is not possible using forward projection technology. Direct imagery is flat and tends to feel two dimensional. If users wear HMDs, then proper depth perception and 3D imagery are achieved. By wearing headsets, however, the virtual experience becomes a solitary one.

Flat Panel Displays/Powerwall

No. True sense of depth and three dimensionality is not possible using direct projection technology. Direct imagery is flat and tends to feel two dimensional (similar to when imagery is viewed on a TV screen or in a movie theatre). If users wear HMDs, then proper depth perception and 3D imagery are achieved. By wearing headsets, however, the virtual experience becomes a solitary one.

Head-Mounted Displays (VR)

Yes. When a user puts on a virtual reality headset, they are fully immersed in a new digital environment that feels very much three-dimensional. Most VR headsets contain two small LCD monitors paired with two lenses (one per eye) that create a stereoscopic effect, providing the user the illusion of 3D and depth. There is a drawback, however, to presenting 3D in this way that affects any immersive solution that uses VR goggles and HMDs.

Here’s a quick explanation of the vergence-accommodation conflict, a common VR sickness that is responsible for eye fatigue and headaches.

    • There are a huge number of depth cues, but two big physiological ones are vergence and accommodation.
    • When you look at an object with your eyes, they both need to be directed slightly inwards in order to fuse two images each eye sees into one. How much the eyes have to angle inwards is known as the vergence angle.
    • In addition, when you look at an object, your cornea needs to either restrict or relax in order to see the object in focus. This is also used as a depth cue, and is significant up to a few feet. This depth cue is known as accommodation.
    • By showing different images to each eye, VR does a great job at providing the vergence cue for depth accurately. Unfortunately, it does not provide the accommodation cue. The amount you bend your cornea in order to see the images in focus never changes in VR, which is what gives rise to the vergence-accommodation conflict.
    • Humans have evolved to automatically adjust the amount we accommodate our eyes based on the vergence angle between the two eyes. So, in the real world, when we look at an object two inches from us, and then at another object 100 feet away, we can very quickly adjust our eyes to see the images in focus. In VR, as you look at different objects in your virtual environment, the vergence angle between your eyes can change by quite a bit, and your eyes automatically adjust their accommodation when you do.
      But that causes images to appear blurry, so your corneas have to adjust to compensate. This requires that your brain spend a great deal of energy trying to reconcile the discrepancies, and results in eye fatigue and headaches.

VR’s physiological limitations: is VR sickness a factor in the immersive solution?

Station IX

No. Because VR goggles and HMDs not are required to view 3D content inside of Station IX, the typical limitations of VR are not a concern. VR typically causes virtual reality sickness that takes time for a user to eventually overcome. VR sickness can present as, but is not limited to:

  • Nausea and vomiting (visual-vestibular conflict)
  • Eye fatigue (vergence-accommodation conflict)
  • General fatigue
  • Headaches
  • General malaise
  • Issues with balance and dizziness due to loss of spatial awareness
CAVEs

Yes, VR sickness is a factor, but can be avoided if HMDs are not worn.

360° Degree Projection Domes

Yes, VR sickness is a factor, but can be avoided if HMDs are not worn.

Flat Panel Displays/Powerwall

Yes, VR sickness is a factor, but can be avoided if HMDs are not worn.

Head-Mounted Displays (VR)

Yes, VR sickness is a factor and users will have to wait for their bodies to adjust to this technology, but this takes time, and is not always possible. As Kaylee Fagan writes in her article, users should take a 10-15 minute break, regardless of if they feel they need one, for every 30 minutes spent using VR devices. These HMDs and goggles can be hard on the body, and thus limit extended usage and training scenarios.

Quick assembly and outdoor usage in immersive solutions

Station IX

No. Our immersive display system requires a considerable amount of time to be assembled, calibrated, and properly set up to achieve our superior image quality. Its components include the large structure itself, curved mirrors, a projection screen, projectors, computers, and many other parts. For example, when the Imagine 4D team brings Station IX on the road to tradeshows, typically a total of 18-24 hours is required to set it up (but we have done it in less time!). For reference, check out our time-lapse assembly at AIA 2019 in Las Vegas, NV below.

Station IX is a sophisticated and substantial piece of equipment that requires care in assembling it and it is not built for outdoor, festival-like events. It is meant for indoor uses such as in high-value training and collaborative visualization applications.

CAVEs

No. CAVEs are complex systems that require a large footprint of space and many moving parts. They require projectors, computers, walls, fans, and a variety of other equipment which makes them ill-suited to being assembled quickly and outdoors.

360° Degree Projection Domes

Yes. 360° Degree Projection Domes are often featured in outdoor festivals, in museums, and for other entertainment purposes. These systems are typically less complicated to assemble and calibrate, and are thus ideal for quick, on-the-fly events.

Flat Panel Displays/Powerwall

Sometimes. Some may be used outside, but not all options are weatherproof. Also, these systems are relatively easy to assemble as they are either one large screen, or a cluster of multiple screens.

Head-Mounted Displays (VR)

Yes, but with limitations. If the device is still tethered to a computer, then taking the HMD outside would be difficult. Similarly, direct sun and heat can damage the device, so caution is necessary. Quick assembly is dependent upon the skill of the person setting up the equipment, but it is generally relatively simple.

VR hardware and software revenue are projected by Tractica to reach $12.6 billion by 2025, and immersive media applications continue to grow in both consumer and enterprise settings. We hope that this immersive solution comparison list will be useful to you in your education about immersive solution types, and in your journey to choosing the product that best suits your needs.

If you have any questions, or would like to speak with a member of our team, please contact us.

Imagine 4D

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